Travel

The 8 Most Exciting Suburbs Outside Nashville

You could use a little space.

There’s a common trope from Nashville residents bemoaning how fast the city is growing: “Nashville’s full. Go home!” Ironically, some of the people yelling this the loudest are recent arrivals to Music CIty themselves, so it’s kind of like showing up late to an exclusive party and then taking it upon yourself to draw the velvet rope behind you. In truth, Nashville’s population density is an issue, so you might consider checking out some of the unique suburbs outside of the urban core. If you’re more town and country than big city, one of these ’burbs might be your next hometown.

Franklin

Distance from Nashville: 30 minutes
A frequent inclusion on lists of “The greatest small towns in America,” Franklin is charming as hell. With a prototypical town square and wide downtown sidewalks perfect for strolling along while window shopping, Franklin is basically like Mayberry with a much bigger tax base. Country music stars and Nashville executives make their home in subdivisions and enclaves in Franklin because it’s just a short trip up I-65 into town for work or to catch a flight out. Outposts of Nashville favorites Frothy Monkey and Biscuit Love will take care of your morning breakfast and caffeination needs, while 55 South and Puckett’s serve elevated Southern fare for lunch and dinner. Cork & Cow is a great spot for wine and steaks, and you can stop by GRAY’s on Main or JJ’s Wine Bar for an after dinner drink.

Leiper’s Fork

Distance from Nashville: 30 minutes
A suburb of a suburb, Leiper’s Fork is an unincorporated rural village on the outskirts of Franklin. Once just a wide spot in the road on the historic Natchez Trace that carried settlers between Nashville and Mississippi in the 1700’s, Leiper’s Fork has become a hideaway for country stars looking for some acreage and privacy, so don’t be shocked if you’re grabbing dinner and listening to some music at the original Puckett’s Cafe and notice a couple of Grammy-winning superstars at the next table. (But don’t make a big deal about it. That’s not the “Nashville Way.”) Even if you can’t afford your own estate, it’s worth the trip to stay at a B&B like Hummingbird Haven as your home base while you take in the cute boutiques, antique stores, galleries, and even a noted distillery that is making some darned fine whiskey.

Murfreesboro

Distance from Nashville: 40 minutes
At the geographic center of the state, Murfreesboro is equally convenient and inconvenient to everywhere. As home to the massive Middle Tennessee State University, a lot of Tennesseeans have spent at least a few years in the ‘Boro, and a bunch of them stuck around to call it home. The city is home to multiple art galleries, museums, and boutiques, plus the historic Stones River National Battlefield is just on the edge of town. The city boasts an extensive system of greenways for walking or biking and backcountry trails for hiking and serious mountain bikers. Beer lovers are in luck with Mayday Brewery, where owner Ozzy Nelson hosts the most entertaining brewery tour in the state on Sundays. On the outskirts of town Hop Springs Beer Park is home to three different breweries on 80-plus acres of land that also hosts live musical acts at a spacious outdoor venue. The complex also features a large taproom, a disc golf course, woodland trails, and a dog park.

Nolensville

Distance from Nashville: 30 minutes
There’s been a bit of a boom lately in Nolensville where the population has doubled over the past decade. New residents have learned that it’s a quick half-hour drive into downtown Nashville, and subdivisions are sprouting up like daffodils in the spring. Nolensville is home to the original outpost of the popular Martin’s Bar-B-Q-Joint chain, along with Mill Creek Brewery. Founded in 1797, the town’s historic district features quaint old buildings housing funky gift shops, clothing boutiques, and jewelry stores for your browsing pleasure. For such a tiny town, Nolensville boasts an outstanding wine and spirits store with Barrels and Brews and a fun distillery/music venue at Wheeler’s Raid.

Mt. Juliet

Distance from Nashville: 25 minutes
Nestled between Old Hickory Lake and Percy Priest Reservoir, Mt. Juliet residents enjoy easy access to the water for boating, skiing, and fishing. The fact that the Music City Star commuter train parallels the interstate for a quick trip into Nashville’s urban core makes it a perfect community for people that work in the big city but prefer a small-town vibe. The large Providence Marketplace provides all the amenities of city life. From anchor retail stores to specialty stores and chain restaurants, you can get all your errands done in one trip. That’ll leave you more time to explore the city’s many parks and recreational areas, the bountiful farmers’ market and fun events at the amphitheater at Charlie Daniels Park.

Hendersonville

Distance from Nashville: 25 minutes
They’re all about the water in Hendersonville, thanks to miles of coastline along Old Hickory Lake that make up the southern edge of the city. In addition to waterfront homes, much of the social life revolves around bars and restaurants at the local marinas where you don’t have to have a boat to have a good time. Favorite spots for lakeview dining and music include The Rudder at Anchor High Marina, Moby Dicky’s and Cherokee Steakhouse. Through the years, many country music stars called Hendersonville home like Johnny and June Cash, Conway Twitty, Marty Stuart, Taylor Swift, and Kelly Clarkson. Nowadays, those mansions are more likely to be owned by Nashville business executives who want to get away from it all when the workday is done.

Clarksville

Distance from Nashville: One hour
A lot of Clarksville’s identity as a city revolves around two institutional powerhouses nearby, Austin Peay State University and the U.S. Army base at nearby Fort Campbell. The turnover of college students and military personnel ensures that Clarksville continues to be a vibrant community that supports the businesses that line the streets of the attractive downtown district. An old railroad bed has been converted into a popular greenway system, with multiple access points along the five-mile route and stations where you can rent bikes by the hour. Another popular activity around Clarksville is Agri-Tourism, thanks to farms and agricultural operations that invite visitors to see them at work and even help harvest the crops. If you really want to have fun while experiencing the bounty of Montgomery County, visit Beachaven Vineyards to sample its wares.

Ashland City

Distance from Nashville: 30 minutes
Ashland City is a short drive northwest of downtown, but thanks to all the bends and winding path of the Cumberland River, you’d burn a tank of gas trying to reach it by boat. Still, the river runs through it, and much of the town’s charm is aligned with the waterfront. Catfish is king in Ashland City, and old school fish houses like the Riverview Restaurant and Marina fry up the best crispy golden whiskerfish you’ll ever taste. The 13.3-mile Cumberland River Bicentennial Trail runs along the riverfront from near downtown to Cheatham Lake and offers paved and packed gravel trails suitable for walking or biking as you admire the flora and fauna of the surrounding wetlands. Riverbluff Park is another great spot to watch the Cumberland roll by or launch your boat from their ramp for the long voyage to Nashville.

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Chris Chamberlain is a food, drink, and travel writer based out of his hometown of Nashville. Find him on Twitter @CeeElCee. ​
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